“The Altgeld Branch of the Chicago Public Library” by S.M. O’Connor

The Altgeld Branch of the Chicago Public Library is located midway on the block on the east side of Corliss Avenue between 132nd Street to the north and 133rd Street to the south in the Chicago Housing Authority’s Altgeld Gardens public housing project in Riverdale (Community Area #54) on the Far South Side of Chicago. [The latter is not to be confused with the adjacent Village of Riverdale, a small, inner-ring suburb of Chicago south of, and contiguous with, the city limits, best known as the birthplace of 1928 and 1936 Olympic gold medal winner Betty Robinson (1911-1999), N.F.L. player Antwaan Randle El, and Angelina Jolie’s late mother Marcheline Bertrand (1950-2007).]  The Altgeld Branch Library primarily serves Altgeld Garden & Phillip Murray Homes.  As of 2010, it also served residents of Golden Gate Homeowners, Concordia Place Apartments, and Riverside Village Apartments & Townhomes.

Altgeld Gardens was built in 1945 for Black war-industry workers in the closing days of the Second Great World War.  It is a 157-acre development with 1,498 two-story row houses.  Unlike high-rise developments that were later built, it has open common areas, and plentiful green space, including Carver Park, which was named after the famous Black botanist, educator, and inventor George Washington Carver (died 1943). When all residences are occupied, it has approximately 3,500 residents, according to Joseph E. Craig, who created a Website in 2001 for current and former residents.  Former President Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. recalls community work he did in Altgeld in his book Dreams From My Father.  In 2010, the development’s 2,000 units underwent renovations to bathrooms, kitchens, lighting fixtures, and the heating and cooling systems.

The Altgeld Branch Library is indirectly named after John Peter Altgeld (1847-1902), Governor of Illinois (1893-1897).[1]  Altgeld Branch Library is far from the only building with the governor’s name on it.  He was a champion of the Neo-Gothic style of architecture in public buildings, and there are Neo-Gothic-style Altgeld Halls at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and Northern Illinois University, as well as such buildings not named after him at Illinois State University and Eastern Illinois University.

This is the second iteration of the Altgeld Branch Library.  It was formerly situated at 903 East 132nd Place.

The current iteration of the Altgeld Branch Library shares a building with Carver Elementary School and the Phillis Wheatley Child Parent Center. This building was designed by Urban Works Architects.  Three agencies of the City of Chicago thus share the building: the Chicago Public Library (C.P.L.), the Chicago Public Schools (C.P.S.), and the Chicago Housing Authority (C.H.A.).

When I first wrote about the Altgeld Branch Library (for Examiner.com Chicago) in 2010, the Featured Collection was African American History.  The Altgeld Branch Library is closed on Sundays.  It is open from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

The address is 13281 South Corliss Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60827.  The phone number there is (312) 747-3270.


[1]Altgeld was a German immigrant, a veteran of the American Civil War (1861-1865), and a leader of the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party in Illinois.  He pushed child labor laws and for workplace safety laws.  Many historians say he was not re-elected in 1896 because he pardoned three of the men wrongly convicted of instigating the Haymarket riot (also known as the Haymarket Massacre).  He also earned the antipathy of businessmen (who were mostly Republican-aligned anyway) because he opposed the use of federal troops to put down the 1894 Pullman Strike.

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